When parents hear the unthinkable news their infant child has cancer, a flurry of emotions strike; denial, shock and disbelief to name a few.
Flower Mound residents Shawn and Jennifer Farrell experienced that in October 2011, when their daughter Rebecca was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) shortly after turning age 1.
“It started with a slight limp, fever and a virus she couldn’t get over for several weeks,” Jennifer said. “Then it got worse…she wasn’t sleeping and stopped walking and talking.”
The Farrells took Rebecca to the Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas and that’s when the initial tests led doctors to tell the worried parents Rebecca’s symptoms looked like leukemia.
“Shawn and I just sat there terrified and in denial,” Jennifer recalled. “We were saying there’s no way our baby can have leukemia.”
Realizing the battle their daughter was about to fight, one of the promises they made to her was to take her to Disney World.
Rebecca underwent a regimen of chemotherapy with both intravenous treatments and pills. Chemo typically weakens a patient’s immune system, so the Farrells were extremely cautious with taking her out into public areas.
“We couldn’t even take her in the grocery store for fear of exposing her to someone else who might have a minor cold,” Jennifer said. “A cold is nothing to worry about, but when your immune system is suppressed, it could develop into something much worse.”
While the treatment progressed, Rebecca’s doctor suggested the Farrells contact Make-A-Wish North Texas.
“I didn’t know it would apply to us, but I found out that any child diagnosed with a life-threatening condition is eligible for Make-A-Wish,” Jennifer said. “And with their help, we’re working to fulfill that promise to take Rebecca to Disneyworld.”
The four-year-old completed her treatment in January and her parents are proud and grateful to report her cancer is in remission, her hair has grown back and she will soon have a procedure to remove the chemo port.
“We’re overwhelmed that Make-A-Wish has gone out of their way to arrange for our stay at Disneyworld, the flights and a rental car,” Jennifer said. “We are so grateful for their help.”
To kick off the celebration, Rebecca donned a princess dress and attended a sendoff tea party at Flower Mound Fire Station #2 on Shiloh Road on Sunday, where her wish was officially granted.
Manu Shahi, owner of the Highland Village Kumon Center, worked with the Farrells and Make-A-Wish to see that Rebecca gets to celebrate her courageous victory over cancer. Her support has also helped the Farrells to move forward.
“Manu said we’ll replace those memories of the cancer and the treatment with fresh, happy ones,” Jennifer said. “It’s just amazing the way the community has come together to support us.”
For more information on how you can help grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions, visit ntx.wish.org.